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Satisfied with staying small

Amidst the economic doom and gloom, there's a definite bright side for those confident and resilient enough to grasp it: putting out one's own shingle. Various small businesses in virtually every category increase threefold during a recession and it's no different in millwork. Case in point: the Chicago-based, full-service custom furniture and cabinetry studio Ingrain.

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Founder Rick Koepke has taken the current downturn as an opportunity to make a name for himself at the ripe old age of 30. And as Koepke knows since starting Ingrain in 2007, lean practices and versatility are his keys to survival.

"I don't ever want Ingrain to be a big business, especially since I specialize in custom fine furniture. I started Ingrain because I wanted to be able to control every part of my process, which would be a character flaw if I were even just a little bigger. But with the type of work I do, I'd never have to hire more than two or three people to work for me."

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